Friday, March 5, 2010

Back in Ghana and loving it

So I’m back in Ghana. Perhaps because I’m only here for the next 6 months, I am making more out of life here this time. Every day I look around me and no longer take for granted the beauty that surrounds me.

Beauty comes unexpectedly as some cattle stop to nibble on the bougainvillea.

A local café. Modestly named ‘Try to respect’

Last Sunday I visited a friend, Florence. I met her through a previous EWB volunteer who worked at the agriculture college last fall. Flo is the top student at the agriculture college. She works her butt off to get amazing grades. She’s up at 3 am to study and normally goes to sleep around 11 pm. I don’t know how she functions on so little sleep!

I biked to visit Flo at the agriculture college, on the way I stopped to appreciate the beautiful sights.

Perfect mounds of dirt ready to be planted with yams once the rains begin.

A tree carries fruit that look similar to Christmas balls. The tree bears a seed called dawa-dawa that is a common cooking spice.

A man struggles up a hill with a ridiculous amount of sticks on his bicycle.

EWB has been working at the agriculture college for the past 8 months to help them develop an entrepreneurship curriculum. Currently, only about 10% of graduates from agriculture colleges find work with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. It’s estimated about 40% of grads find work with non-government organisations or with private companies such as input suppliers and private veterinary clinics. It’s a shame that 50% of these youth don’t end up using their talents.

Last week, a guy named Evan came to my office and dropped off his resume. He graduated from the agriculture college in 1993 and has been looking for work since! Since then he’s been selling cheap imported Chinese goods. That’s how I met him. He came to my office and gave me a pitch on the ‘best smelling cologne I’ve ever seen’. He also had a ton of other random goods – shoe shiner, condoms, flashlights…Is Evan better off than his friends whose parents couldn’t afford to send him to school?

So back to Flo another lucky college student. After graduation, Flo has plans to open up a dog grooming business. That’s quite a different ambition from her peers who mostly aim to be the lucky ones who will attain employment with MoFA. It’s likely they’ll end up like Evan struggling to make a living from a job they are overqualified for.

Flo wants to open a dog grooming business because she’s not going to take employment for granted. Flo figures dog grooming is the most profitable venture she can find in Ghana. A shame her talents won’t go to supporting the cattle sector in Northern Ghana, or the fowl industry in the South. Both industries have a ton of potential but are not growing due to a ton of challenges – imports bring down the prices, poor access to medicines make production inefficient, the people who raise cattle are among the most marginalized, underdeveloped cold storage facilities…

Hopefully, the work that EWB is doing at the agriculture college will help Flo and her peers find employment in the agriculture sector that will not only provide them with viable income but also stimulate the sector to grow and provide money to farmers pockets so they too can afford to send their kids to college.

Last fall, Flo applied to gain practical experience abroad. She was awarded this opportunity and will travel to Denmark for one month this summer. The EWB volunteer who worked with Flo, Carissa got her friends to raise money to buy Flo a camera. When I gave Flo the camera she just about died. She collapsed to the floor with shock! All over a small Canon point and shoot. Flo told me that she wanted to buy a camera and saved up her money. She had her eye on a $250 Panasonic camera. By the time she went to buy the camera they were all sold out and the cheapest camera she could find was for $400. Flo interpreted this situation as God’s doing. It would have been unnecessary for her to have 2 cameras.

Flo collapses to the ground in true dramatic style – in her free time she acts.

Flo reading the card with the words of encouragement and congratulations from Carissa’s friends.

I know Flo will make the most of her opportunity in Denmark. She takes nothing for granted as she has had to work for everything she’s earned. Much more than I. And after she returns, I hope that Flo will have opportunities to apply her skills in the agriculture sector to help it develop. Thanks Flo for being an inspiration!

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